This post was originally published by Katherine Siftontes on lessonly.com.
Role playing is a powerful sales readiness method built into most B2B sales training programs. It allows reps to practice applying new concepts that they’ve learned to lifelike sales situations. And it’s popular for good reason—role play exercises encourage your sales teams to move beyond scripted interactions and truly put technique into action, preparing them to make an impact in the moments that matter most in the field.
Whether your sales organization is back in the office, working in a hybrid environment, or leaning into the new digital sales space, these 6 tips will help you expand your sales training program with effective role-play exercises.
1. Find the right learning environment
Choose the learning environment that fits your team and a specific set of sales training topics. Depending on the skill you would like your reps to work on, there are several ways to facilitate role play exercises with your sales team.
Whether virtual or in person, role playing in a group setting is a great opportunity to create a shared or social learning environment where reps can practice with and observe others’ techniques. With so many different types of sales training programs, it doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all approach either. Using a virtual role playing platform in addition to video conferencing can make role playing in any environment easy to do.
Another popular option is one-on-one role playing. Role playing with a mentor, senior rep, or manager can result in more focused and objective feedback for the seller. Unlike role playing in front of the team, constructive feedback is naturally easier for a rep to focus on when given one-on-one.
There may also be some topics that you will want a rep to practice role playing on their own. This is particularly useful when preparing your team to talk about things like updated pricing or new competitor intel—things that might change the market for your buyers but don’t require new techniques or considerable creativity from your sellers to do well. Solo role playing can be done through sales enablement platforms with video practice or coaching capabilities that allow you to have your team role play and still receive feedback. (Hint: Lessonly makes that easy.)
2. Build a story
Keep role play exercises grounded in a specific subject, within a set scenario, and with a clear goal that you want sellers to achieve. And there’s no better way to clarify the power of storytelling than through some sales training examples.
Exhibit A: Let’s say you want to work on objection handling with your sales team. Give both reps playing “seller” and “buyer” roles the boundaries of the scenario. If this is a first call versus a connection later in the deal cycle, the tone and context the “seller” might want to leverage might be different. Giving both roles this information will create a more lifelike exercise.
Most importantly, make sure the rep playing the “seller” role has an end goal in mind. Based on the scenario, the rep might need to get agreements on the next steps or secure new information to move the deal forward. This goal will also give the role play a natural ending point.
3. Make it challenging
Most sales training courses for beginners play things too safe, making training less effective and more of a waste of time. Make things challenging for your team by sharing certain information about the role play scenario with the rep acting as a “buyer” that isn’t by-the-book.
Here’s an example in a b2b setting. What would your reps do if they learned a prospect is executing an acquisition that could have the power to derail the deal? Remember, role playing exercises are the perfect opportunity to create realistic stories for your team to role play through. So, pull on those real situations and challenges that you’ve heard your sales team encounter in the field.
As your team gets better, keep raising the bar on these curve balls and challenges.
4. Feedback, feedback, feedback
Improvement comes from constructive feedback—and that is especially true when role playing. Whether you’ve chosen to role play with a rep in a group setting, one-on-one, or you’ve given a rep something to role play on their own through a virtual sales enablement platform, feedback is the only way your sales team will get better.
Timing is everything when it comes to feedback, so wait until the role play is done and dusted. Active feedback can be helpful to clarify some sales training program content, but it can also be disruptive while reps are role playing. Wait until the scenario is complete before opening the floor.
Be sure to first highlight the areas where they exceeded expectations and performed well. Then, provide areas where they should focus on, but do so with a tone of opportunity. To provide clarity, give them specific examples of a moment where they could have improved and how you would suggest handling it differently.
Alternatively, you could start off by first inviting the rep to share how they think the role play went. Sometimes it can be easier for people to receive constructive feedback after they’ve set the stage by self-reflecting.
5. Role Play, rinse, repeat
The key to building any new muscle is consistent repetition. But even advanced sales training topics can feel stale after too much repetition.
Reviewing the same role play scenario over and over again will only lead to bored reps and predictable responses, so make an effort to keep things engaging and challenging by mixing things up. When one role play exercise is completed, have your reps switch roles. Try pairing new reps together, adding in new challenges, or simply updating the scenario while you work on the same skill.
You’ll see your sales team’s skills and creativity grow through each new role play—something we know will lead to real performance in the field.
6. Reinforce principles, not scripts
Generally, there is no one right way to do just about anything. The same goes for how your sales team works best. Even for complicated b2b sales training topics, it’s best to ensure that role play exercises and feedback don’t teach your sales team to follow a script or cause them to only respond in a static way. The magical part about role playing is that it encourages a person to use their imagination to solve a problem in real time, and you want your reps to benefit from that.Whether you’re working with your team on relationship building or talking about the next steps with a customer, motivate each of your sales reps to be authentic and comfortable being themselves in any situation throughout your sales process.